This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 3rd, The Locke/Morton/McLouth Trade

Two Pittsburgh Pirates trades made on this date, plus two former players were born on June 3rd.

The Trades

On this date in 2009, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, plus pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. McLouth was coming off an All-Star season in 2008, one in which he had a .276 average, with 113 runs scored, 26 homers, 94 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, a league leading 46 doubles and an .853 OPS. He also won the Gold Glove in center field, though he rated poorly on defense that year. When the Pirates wanted to call up top prospect Andrew McCutchen, McLouth balked at the position move from center field, which in part caused the trade. He was hitting .256/.349/.470 when the deal was made, with 27 runs, seven doubles, nine homers and 34 RBIs in 45 games. All three players received in the deal were highly rated prospects at some time, though only Morton had Major League experience at the time. The 21-year-old Locke was a second round pick in 2006, who was struggling at the time in High-A ball. Hernandez was 21 years old, hitting .316 in Double-A. Prior to the season, he was ranked as the 62nd best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. Morton was 25 years old and playing at Triple-A, coming off a season in which he went 4-8, 6.15 in 74.2 innings for the Braves.

After the deal, Morton went 41-62, 4.39 in 142 starts and 801 innings with the Pirates, where he played during the 2009-15 seasons, before he was traded away with one year left on his contract. That deal worked out great for the Pirates, despite a poor return in minor league pitcher David Whitehead. Morton pitched just 17.1 innings in 2016 due to injury, while making $8M for the season. Hernandez played 25 games with the Pirates in 2012, then was traded to the Miami Marlins for first baseman Gaby Sanchez. He returned to the Pirates as a free agent in 2015, when he played another eight big league games. He was then a regular for the 2017-18 San Francisco Giants, which led to him playing a total of 394 games over six seasons. Locke reached the Pirates in September of 2011, then stayed around through the 2016 season. He went 35-38, 4.41 in 644 innings with the Pirates, making 110 starts and 13 relief appearances. He was an All-Star in 2013. The Pirates let him go after the 2016 season. He pitched just seven more big league games after leaving Pittsburgh.  McLouth hit .229/.335/.364 in 250 games for Atlanta over the 2009-11 season, finishing with 124 runs, 44 doubles, 21 homers and 76 RBIs. He had decent results in 2009 after the trade, but his other two seasons were worth -2.4 WAR. He eventually ended up back in Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2012, but he was released after batting just .140 in 34 games. As for the on field value the teams got with the initial trade, McLouth gave the Braves -0.6 WAR, while the Pirates received 0.5 WAR from their three players.

On this date in 1906, the Pirates traded pitcher Ed Karger to the St Louis Cardinals for pitcher Chappie McFarland. This move is the exact opposite of the one above, as Pittsburgh dealt a young prospect in exchange for a veteran pitcher. The 23-year-old Karger had made his Major League debut exactly seven weeks earlier. He was pitching well for the Pirates, but they wanted a veteran to help for their playoff run. As it turned out, they had no chance that season with the Cubs setting a major league record with a 116-36 record. Karger had a 2-3, 1.93 record at the time of the deal, making two starts and four relief appearances. McFarland had pitched decent for some very poor St Louis Cardinals teams. At age 31, he was coming off three straight seasons of throwing at least 229 innings. With St Louis, he had a 33-57, 3.33 record over 797 innings.

McFarland didn’t last long in Pittsburgh after the trade. He went 1-3, 2.55 in six games, five as a starter. The Pirates put him on waivers, where he was picked up by Brooklyn on August 1st. He made just one start for them, before returning to the minors for the last three years of his pro career. Karger pitched in the majors until 1911, and while his career record was just 48-67, he retired with a 2.79 ERA. He had a 2.72 ERA over 191.2 innings in 1906, then posted a 2.04 ERA over 314 innings in 1907. He threw 29 complete games that season. His record was just 15-19 in 1907, but the rest of the Cardinals pitching staff went 37-82. He pitched a shortened perfect game on August 11, 1907, which isn’t counted now as a perfect game, but it was recognized at one time. We posted more on Karger here in a One Who Got Away feature.

The Players

Brandon Waddell, pitcher for the 2020 Pirates. He was a fifth round pick by the Pirates in 2015 out of the University of Virginia. Waddell was known as a big game pitcher in college. He continued that trend over the years in minor league playoff games, as the Pirates affiliates seemed to win wherever he played. After signing late due to the 2015 College World Series, Waddell pitched for short-season Morgantown of the New York-Penn League, where he had a 5.75 ERA in 20.1 innings over six starts. He made incredible movement through the system the next season. He skipped Low-A to start the year, then dominated in five High-A starts, posting an 0.93 ERA and an 0.52 WHIP in 29 innings for Bradenton of the Florida State League. The Pirates then jumped him to Altoona of the Double-A Eastern League, where his career stalled a bit, partially due to injury. Waddell had a 4.12 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP in 118 innings after the early season promotion. He struck out a total of 120 batters that season in 147 innings. His 2017 season saw him post a 3.12 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 78 innings, but he missed time twice with a forearm strain. He had a 3.55 ERA in 15 starts that year with Altoona, while also making rehab starts in the Gulf Coast League and with Morgantown. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he had a 2.57 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 14 innings. Waddell split the 2018 season between Altoona and Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League. He had a 2.68 ERA in 53.2 innings at Altoona, and a 4.19 ERA in 81.2 innings at Indianapolis. He had 103 strikeouts and a 1.37 WHIP in 135.1 innings that year.

The 2019 season was a bit of a disaster for Waddell. He was pitching in relief for Indianapolis, and struggling with the new role, posting an 8.70 ERA and a 1.93 WHIP over 61 innings. He was demoted to Altoona in the middle of the season, where he was moved to the starting role. He was strong at the level, putting up a 2.23 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 36.1 innings over seven starts. However, he did poorly once again after returning to Triple-A to finish the season. Waddell didn’t get an invite to the Alternate Training Site when the 2020 season resumed play after the COVID shutdown, but he ended up joining the Altoona practice squad late. He was barely there for any time before the Pirates called him up as a bullpen arm. He pitched just twice over a 23-day stretch, allowing one run in 3.1 innings. He was put on waivers after the season, where he was claimed by the Minnesota Twins. Waddell made four appearances for Minnesota in 2021, giving up six runs in four innings, before he was designated for assignment on May 7th. He was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles the next day and assigned to Triple-A. He ended up pitching one scoreless inning for the Orioles, before being put on waivers 29 days after being acquired. He was claimed off of waivers by the St Louis Cardinals. Most of his final four months were spent with Triple-A Memphis, though he pitched 4.1 innings over four appearances with the Cardinals. He had a combined 6.75 ERA and a 2.46 WHIP over 9.1 innings during the 2021 season. He also had two short stints on the Injured List late in the season. His 2022 season started as a reliever back with Memphis, but he finished it as a starter in Korea. He had a 3.30 ERA and 33 strikeouts over 30 innings before the move. He finished with a 3.60 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 65 innings in Korea. He is spending the 2023 season as a starting pitcher in China. Despite playing for four different teams in the majors, he has pitched a total of 12.2 innings.

Nelson Liriano, second baseman for the 1995-96 Pirates. He was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as an international amateur in November of 1982. He made his Major League debut five years later in Toronto. Liriano was signed at 18 years old out of the Dominican Republic. He went to Florence of the Class-A South Atlantic League for his first season in 1983, where he hit .259 in 129 games, with 87 runs, 35 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs, 70 walks, 27 steals and a .724 OPS. He moved up to Advanced-A the next year, where he batted .246 in 132 games for Kinston of the Carolina League, finishing with 68 runs, 31 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs, ten steals, 46 walks and a .646 OPS. Liriano repeated the level in 1985, when he hit .288 in 132 games, with 68 runs, 30 extra-base hits (23 doubles), 36 RBIs, 25 steals and a .731 OPS. He moved up to Knoxville of the Double-A Southern League in 1986, then hit .285 in 135 games, with 88 runs, 25 doubles, 15 triples, seven homers, 59 RBIs and 35 stolen bases. Liriano’s .765 OPS that season was his highest while coming up through the minors. He played 130 games for Syracuse of the Triple-A International League in 1987, finishing with a .250 average, to go along with 72 runs, 19 doubles, ten triples, ten homers, 55 RBIs, 36 steals and a .687 OPS. That led to a promotion to the majors in late August, where he played full time at second base over the final six weeks. Liriano batted lead-off from the start, which led to 176 plate appearances in 37 games. He hit .241/.310/.342 for the 1987 Blue Jays, with 29 runs, ten extra-base hits, ten RBIs and 13 steals.

Liriano was in the majors for almost all of 1988, hitting .264 over 99 games, with 36 runs, 11 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs, 12 steals and a .630 OPS. He had his best year in the majors in 1989, when he hit .263 over 132 games, with 51 runs, 26 doubles, five homers, 53 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and a .707 OPS. He hit .429 that postseason, with one run, one RBI and three stolen bases in Toronto’s ALCS loss to the Oakland A’s. Liriano started off slow the next season, then was dealt to the Minnesota Twins in July for for veteran pitcher John Candelaria. He ended up batting .234 between both stops that year, with 46 runs, 12 doubles, nine triples, one homer, 28 RBIs and a .635 OPS in 103 games. After being released by Minnesota at the end of Spring Training in 1991, he spent most of the season in the minors, getting in just ten games with the Kansas City Royals in May. He hit .274/.345/.411 over 86 games for Omaha of the Triple-A American Association. While his big league time was brief, he managed to hit .409 in 22 at-bats, though that came with all singles and no walks. He signed with the Cleveland Indians for 1992, then spent the entire year in the minors, where he hit .305 in 106 games for Colorado Springs of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, finishing up with 73 runs, 33 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs, 20 steals and an .830 OPS.

Liriano signed with the expansion Colorado Rockies for the 1993 season. He hit .305/377/.424 in limited time (175 plate appearances in 48 games) while playing in the thin Colorado air. He hit .330 in 88 at-bats at home that year. He had 28 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs. He mostly played second base during his big league career, but he saw more time at shortstop during the 1993 season. Half of that season was spent back with Colorado Springs, as they switched affiliates from the Indians to the Rockies. Liriano put up a .358 average and a .959 OPS over 79 games for Colorado Springs that year. He batted .255 over 87 games for the Rockies during the strike-shortened 1994 season, with 39 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs, 42 walks and a .753 OPS. The Pirates picked him up off waivers in October of 1994, then had him platoon at second base with Carlos Garcia during the 1995 season. Liriano also got plenty of pinch hitting at-bats that year, finishing the season with a .286 average in 107 games (55 starts), along with 29 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs and a .745 OPS. He saw fewer starts and more time in the pinch-hitting role during the 1996 season, getting 234 plate appearances over 112 games (34 starts). He hit .267/.308/.392 that year, with 23 runs, 14 doubles and 30 RBIs. He was put on waivers after the 1996 season ended, where he was picked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Liriano had a limited bench role with the 1997 Dodgers, starting just seven of his 76 games that year. He hit .227/.274/.330 in 97 plate appearances, with ten runs, six doubles, a homer and 11 RBIs. He finished his  big league career back in Colorado in 1998, though it did not go well. He went 0-for-17 in 12 games, with seven strikeouts and a .000 OPS. He hit into a double play, so he actually made more outs than he had plate appearances. His pro career ended with time in Mexico and one game in Japan during the 1999 season. He actually did well in Mexico, posting an .888 OPS over 80 games. After his playing days, he managed the Royals rookie league affiliate in Burlington for three seasons (2009-11). Liriano hit .277 in 219 games for the Pirates, with 52 runs, 26 doubles, eight homers and 68 RBIs. In his 11-year big league career, he batted .260 over 823 games, with 296 runs, 105 doubles, 25 homers, 240 RBIs and 59 steals. He was rated as a below average defensive player in seven of his 11 seasons according to dWAR, which gave him a -1.1 career mark, though overall he was a 3.0 WAR player.